Air mattresses pose safety risk for babies

06 June 2017

Inflatable beds place infants at great risk for sleep-related death.

Parents are being urged to avoid resting their babies on air mattresses.

Academics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Georgia have warned that inflatable beds place infants at great risk for sleep-related death.

Associate Professor Jennifer Doering and Assistant Professor Trina Salm Ward explained that while air mattresses' low cost and portability are attractive features for some low-income and transient populations, their design brings health risks to little ones.

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“Even when fully inflated, air mattresses can mould to the infant’s face and obstruct the airway by forming an occlusive seal,” the pair report. "The risk increases when air mattresses leak during use. Under-inflation was a factor in some of the infant deaths reviewed.”

In their report, Doering and Ward also call for greater recognition of air mattress use in both policy statements and data collection about infant deaths.

The U.S. National Child Death Review Case Reporting System has recorded 108 infant deaths involving air mattresses in 24 states between 2004 and 2015. However, the pair suggests that such deaths were probably underreported.

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They also checked policy statements from 12 organisations - including federal agencies and health, consumer and parent groups - and found that only one mentioned the hazard posed to infants by air mattresses.

Accordingly, Doering and Ward suggest that public health organisations should explicitly warn about the hazard of air mattresses when providing information on low-cost bedding options as a way to combat bedbug infestations. They also recommend that researchers specifically ask about use of air mattresses and air components in traditional mattresses when assessing infant sleep location.

The full study has been published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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